Heart Attack

Overview

A heart attack is a common occurrence, and affects over one million people annually in the United States. A heart attack is a symptom of restricted blood flow to the heart. A heart attack is deadly, and immediate treatment for this condition is essential. Only about fifty percent of heart attack victims survive, but those at risk can take steps to cut the risk and recover after a heart attack has occurred.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

When blood flow to the heart is restricted, portions of the heart muscle may be damaged or die. While symptoms may vary – or even be unnoticeable – a heart attack often results in several classic symptoms such as chest pain or a feeling of constriction or pressure in the chest, pain in the arm, neck, jaw, shoulder or back, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness and sweating. Although not every symptom may be present, it is important to know the symptoms of a heart attack. The sooner treatment is sought, the higher the likelihood of survival.

Doctors usually perform regular screenings during health exams for risk factors of heart attack. Patients with these risk factors may already be receiving treatment for heart disease. Those who suffer a heart attack are likely to be diagnosed by attending emergency professionals who record symptoms and check a patient’s blood pressure, pulse and temperature for any anomalies. These medical professionals will also use a stethoscope to listen to the lungs and heart and an electrocardiogram to record the heart’s electrical activity. Blood tests may be performed to check for heart enzymes in the blood. Their presence indicates a heart attack.

Causes

A heart attack is caused by restricted blood flow to the organ. This is most often the result of coronary artery disease. In coronary artery disease, cholesterol and other substances build up along artery walls. Over time, this blockage can cause the blood vessel to rupture, leading to a clot. The clot cuts off blood supply to the heart resulting in a heart attack. Less common reasons for heart attack include coronary artery spasm – sometimes caused by stimulant drug use – or a tear in one of the arteries of the heart.  Continue for Prevention information . . .

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